It’s not quite saving the orphanage from the mustache-twirling developers, but it’s close. Williamsburg’s Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (NAG), along with the People’s Firehouse, need to raise lots of money so they can repurpose the old Engine Company 212 firehouse into a totally rad community space, aka the Northside Town Hall. Appropriately, then, they’re having a “Raise the Roof” benefit this Wednesday at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, featuring neighborhood mainstays They Might Be Giants and Nada Surf. We spoke with Nada Surf frontman Matthew Caws about why everyone should go…
The L: So, why do you think this kind of community space is important?
Matthew Caws: This space and the groups that are going to occupy and use it (Neighbors Allied for Good Growth [NAG] and the People’s Firehouse [PFI]) would be a positive influence in any neighborhood, but they are a real necessity here, where the long-growing popularity of the neighborhood among artists and musicians has effectively become bait for rampant over-development.
The L: You’re a long-time Williamsburg resident—do you think there’s more a sense of community now, or has intense gentrification left the hood more fractured? If the former, why; if the latter, how do you think we fix that?
MC: I honestly don’t know the answer to that question. The rise in population may support both truths. In any case, events like the Raise the Roof benefit, and certainly the community center, are the solution. Most of my friends and neighbors who have been active in the community (from back in the day) still are, and the slack left by those who have had to leave because of rising rents will hopefully be picked up by newly arrived members of the community. If NAG hadn’t pushed for a park on the East River, we would be looking at a solid wall of glass and concrete along Kent Avenue.
The L: Have you ever played with They Might Be Giants before? If you had to compete with them (for in charity, in a sport/trivia contest/board game) what sport/trivia contest/board game would guarantee Nada Surf victory?
MC: Let’s see… a couple of decades ago, when we were a different group (they were already themselves) we opened for them in one of the Hamptons (east? south? north?). We fairly were awful, I’m sure. They were a totally rad twosome. Then we (as us now) played at a Midwest Radio station’s yearly shindig with them a decade-and-change ago. So it’s been a while…
As for sports, we’ve got maybe one-and-a-quarter half-way decent soccer players in this band. That would be a good place to start, it being such a gear-light game. We could then move up to jai alai or down to marbles, depending on how much of a rush we all got from desporting ourselves. I don’t know, though, those are some pretty healthy, together dudes. We’re way more wan.
As for trivia, if the category were American History, we’d be on the wrong end of a trouncing. [Nada Surf bass player] Daniel would win a cook-off against just about anyone. I’ve got nothing but a creepily accurate bill hickey (Prizzi’s Honor, anyone?) impression. Useful, eh? Bad for the throat though.
The L: Do groupies even come to benefits?
MC: I have no idea. I am noticing that the word “croupiers” looks almost the same as “groupies.” But that R makes a big difference. Letters. So small, so powerful. [Ed. I’ll take that as a yes.]
The L: What’s coming down the pike from Nada Surf?
MC: We’re in the process of finishing an album of covers. We’ll do some touring in the spring and summer and then we’ll make another band record. At some point, I will probably have a delicious sandwich. But at some other point, I will probably have a mealy apple. The joy and the sorrow…